Bone marrow (BM), adult peripheral blood (aPB), and umbilical cord blood (CB) samples contain small proportions of CD34+ cells that include virtually all hematopoietic progenitor cells. Myeloperoxidase (MPO) is considered to be selectively expressed in cells committed to granulomonocytic differentiation. Using flow cytometry and an antibody against MPO, we studied at which stage of normal hematopoietic differentiation CD34+ cells being to express MPO. We consistently observed a characteristic MPO/CD34 staining pattern and found that 35% +/- 9% of CD34+ BM cells express MPO. The MPO+ CD34+ subset and the CD33+ CD34+ subset were of similar size and overlapped considerably. MPO+ CD34+ cells expressed high levels of HLA-D molecules, were weakly CD71/transferrin receptor positive to negative, were CD45RA+ and lacked the CD45RO isoform of the leukocyte common antigen. Additionally, MPO+ CD34+ cells were on average larger in size than MPO- CD34+ cells. Virtually identical phenotypic features have previously been described for in vitro colony-forming granulomonocytic progenitor cells. In vitro clonogenic assays performed with MPO-enriched and MPO-depleted fractions of CD34+ BM cells performed by us also suggest, but do not formally prove, that at least a portion of MPO+ CD34+ cells have in vitro cluster (10 to 50 cells/colony) or colony-forming unit granulocyte-macrophage (> or = 50 cells/colony) forming capacity. CD34+ cells from CB and aPB resembled CD34+ BM cells in that considerable proportions of them coexpressed CD33. However, in contrast to BM, CD34+ cells from CB and aPB samples lacked significant MPO expression and, in line with this, the majority of them (CB, 59% +/- 7%; aPB, 66% +/- 5%) coexpressed CD45RO.

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